- A laptop that’s utterly infested with six of the worst computer viruses and malware known to man was sold at auction for $1.345 million on Monday.
- The types of viruses on the laptop are said to have caused $95 billion in financial damages worldwide.
- The laptop has had its internet connectivity and ports disabled, which hopefully means the malware within has no way to spread…hopefully.
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A 2008 Samsung NC10 laptop running Windows XP just sold at auction for a whopping $1.345 million.
Although the 11-year-old machine may have nostalgic value to some, what makes this one so special (and expensive) is that it comes with live specimens of six of the most dangerous computer viruses in existence.
In a livestream on Twitch, the laptop can be seen turned on and running the viruses and malware. But the laptop wasn’t sold as a cyber weapon on a darkweb black market. It was sold as art.
The virus-infected laptop is an art installation called “The Persistence of Chaos” by artist Guo O Dong.
- Twitch/Persistence Chaos
According to a website promoting the piece, Dong is a “contemporary internet artist whose work critiques modern day extremely-online culture. The Persistence of Chaos was created as a collaboration between the artist and cybersecurity company Deep Instinct, which provided the malware and technical expertise to execute the work in a safe environment.”
Dong said the viruses in the laptop have caused $95 billion in financial damages. It’s unlikely that the laptop itself was the cause of the $95 billion in damages. It’s more likely that the viruses it contains are the same that are known to have caused damages worldwide.
“The sale of malware for operational purposes is illegal in the United States”
Dong’s laptop is “airgapped,” which means its ability to connect to the internet has been disabled. Its ports have also been disabled, so USB sticks can’t be used to transfer its threats.
The terms of the auction also state that “The sale of malware for operational purposes is illegal in the United States. As a buyer you recognize that this work represents a potential security hazard. By submitting a bid you agree and acknowledge that you’re purchasing this work as a piece of art or for academic reasons, and have no intention of disseminating any malware.”
Of course, anyone with an intermediate knowledge of computers would have no trouble figuring out a way to extract the viruses from the hard drive, despite the fact that the laptop itself is airgapped.
The details of the auction, including the selling price, were reported by Dong himself on his website. So it’s worth taking the claims with a grain of salt until the sale can be verified. Deep Instinct, the firm that Dong partnered with, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The buyer of The Persistence of Chaos is anonymous. Here’s hoping Dong’s dangerous art didn’t fall into the wrong hands.
Check out the infamous computer viruses running on the most dangerous laptop in the world:
“The “ILOVEYOU” virus, distributed via email and file sharing, affected 500,000+ systems and caused $15B in damages total, with $5.5B in damages being caused in the first week,” according to Dong’s site.
The “ILOVEYOU” virus was designed to replace media files on a computer, like photos and videos, with copies of the bug itself. It would then spread itself by emailing contacts in a user’s Outlook account.
The virus overloaded email system around the world, and a “huge chunk of the businesses and governments to fully grind down to a halt,” said Philip Menke, a consultant at Intel Security who spoke with Vice.
“MyDoom” was a worm designed to leave infected computers open to other malware and viruses, according to a 2004 Cnet article. Computers would become infected when a user opened an attachment send in an email containing the MyDoom worm. Dong estimated “MyDoom”caused $38 billion in damages.
When it was first released, the “SoBig” worm and trojan virus “briefly brought freight and computer traffic in Washington, D.C. to a halt, grounded Air Canada and slowed down computer systems at many major companies such as advanced technology firm Lockheed Martin,” according to a 2003 CNN article.
“SoBig” would be transmitted via email. Once the infected email was opened, it would scan the computer for other email address and spread itself further.
Dong estimates that “SoBig” caused $37 billion in damages.
- Thomson Reuters
“WannaCry” is a recent “cryptoworm” that acted as ransomware – where a user’s data would be encrypted until the user paid a ransom to have their data released.
“The attack affected 200,000+ computers across 150 countries, and caused the NHS $100M in damages with further totals accumulating close to $4B,” Dong said on the Persistence of Chaos website.
“DarkTequila” is malware that was prevalent in Latin America designed to collect a wide variety of data from an infected computer, including credentials to online services. That data could then be used for additional attacks, according to The Next Web.
Dong estimates it cost “millions in damages across many users.”
- REUTERS/Pavel Rebrov
“BlackEnergy” was originally intended as a data collection tool, but it evolved into malware that could damage a nation’s critical infrastructure, according to Al Jazeera.
Dong said “BlackEnergy” was used used in a cyberattack “that prompted a large-scale blackout in Ukraine in December 2015.”
You can read about the Ukraine blackout here.